Bereaved families launched a campaign on Wednesday demanding that Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev “apologize or resign” over remarks made to senior American diplomat Victoria Nuland about alleged settler violence and for comparing the “deadly Arab terrorism to some marginal events in the settlements.”

The campaign, co-launched with the Samaria Regional Council, will include roadside billboards. If Bar-Lev refuses to apologize, the families will demand that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett dismiss him.

The public security minister had told Nuland that Israel was working to tackle the alleged settler violence and taking steps to bolster police presence in Judea and Samaria. He also said that efforts were being made to provide clearer instructions to Israeli troops on how to deal with attacks by Jews on Palestinians.

Despite a storm of criticism from bereaved families, Knesset members and even fellow coalition members, Bar-Lev refused to apologize.

“I understand that it is really difficult for some of you to look in the mirror and face [the fact] that extreme settler violence [has become an issue] on the international stage, with foreign governments taking an interest,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “I recommend that those who have difficulty [understanding this] drink a glass of water,” he added.

“I will continue to fight Palestinian terrorism as if there is no extremist settler violence, and extremist settler violence as if there is no Palestinian terrorism,” he wrote.

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, said, “A public security minister who compares Arab terrorism to marginal events in the settlements should not remain in office. This is a failure in values. A person who refuses to apologize and belittles bereaved families must resign. … We launched the campaign because this statement by the public security minister could lead to disparagement in the attacks against settlers in Samaria and could harm the security of the residents.”

The government must force Bar-Lev to either apologize or resign, said Dagan.

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday expressed support for Barlev’s statement, calling it “a step in the right direction and first official recognition by Israel of crimes committed by Jewish gangs against Palestinians.”

Nevertheless, it said, “It is not enough. We call on the centrist and left-wing ministers in the government to end their silence and declare that they condemn and oppose settler terrorism and attacks on Palestinians, which will help create trust-building measures between Palestinians and Israelis and help create a suitable atmosphere for resolving the conflict.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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